Squaring the Circle: Increasing demand decreasing budgets

PastriesJust a quick round up of a great conference I attended yesterday organised by the talented collection mangement team here within the Library at BCU, the conference was titled Squaring the Circle: Increasing demand and decreasing budgets. Managing library provision in times of financial constraints.

There was a good mix of speakers providing varied perspectives and sharing really useful insights which I think could be put to practical use. In the morning we heard about a range of projects, KB+, JUSP and the Library Impact Data project all of which spoke about the benefits and added value of providing shared services and building communities. KB+ and JUSP are currently available for institutions to sign up to (and please do) while the work from the library impact data project could continue to be developed to provide a shared service. It was great to hear how collaboration between librarians, suppliers and publishers are helping build such useful services and tools which will in turn improve the services libraries provide.

We were then challenged by Professor Martin Fautley from Birmingham City University in his presentation Research and the Library: Doing and teaching research in education, where he talked about what life is like for an academic, about his priorities and his expectations from the library. I was particularly interested see the journal industry from his perspective as an author and editor. Throughout the presentation he raised a number of questions such as, how does an academic know their field and how does the library help with that? What makes a ‘quality’ library? Is there a category error mistaking knowledge for information?. Plenty of food for thought

The afternoon was focused on ebooks including a case study by Jill Talyor-Roe on their expeiences of Patron Driven Acquisitons with ebooks at Newcastle University. Having experimented early on she was able to provide some interesting statistics on usage and trends over the last few years and was a great introduction for any institution considering trying this model. I was also pleased to hear her advice of ‘not being afraid to fail’ which I think is important especially if we want to continue to innovate and experiment. Jennifer Rowley followed talking about the marketing and promotion of ebooks and mentioned looking to services such as Amazon for inspiration. On listening to this presentation I began to question the value of marketing a type of format and in the Q&A with the panel that followed Graham Stone noted that at Huddersfield their strategic approach to marketing resources was to do it in in the context of ‘Discovery’ rather than the product. Liam Earney suggested that improvements to the user experience were key to encourage use, making me rethink my approach to promotion of resources.

I personally found this an uplifting conference and encouraging to hear about the values of collaboration, sharing and working together. Throughout my experience in the library profession I have always been grateful for the support and helpful advice I have received from colleagues at different institutions and I hope that national services such as KB+ will thrive on this type of approach.

It was also lovely to catch up with some familiar faces and meet new people. One of the themes from this morning was how some projects were sharing ideas with each other, for example there are developments planned for further integration between JUSP and KB+ (am hoping someone is going to do me an infographic on how all the different Jisc projects interlink) and I look forward to seeing how some of the ideas shared at this conference are taken back to institutions.

Thanks again to colleagues for such an interesting day and ensuring our sugar levels were topped up throughout the day with pastries, biscuits and mince pies.

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Down the rabbit hole: from click, touch to drag

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Recently the Wired Magazine ran a comparison on two portable e-book readers – the new Kindle from Amazon, and the Sony Touch. They came down slightly in favour of the Kindle – with its superior display and Whispernet Wireless connectivity.

But what struck me was that the smartphone users I showed these devices to, immediately touched the screen to load the book  – functionality which you get on the Sony but not the Kindle which uses a joystick (see our ‘home’ videos that demonstrate the difference : Sony TouchAmazon Kindle ).

We know that the sales of smart phones have rocketed – and as they become more and more widespread amongst students in the next few years, the disconnect between our traditional web and commerical mobile patforms will be become more and more obvious – one of the biggest is that of interaction : touching, dragging, moving the ‘stuff ‘ on the screen that you are looking at.

The coming of the iPad only accelerates this drive, to react with, to converse with, annotate, share a text : so that in an academic context learning is no longer a solitary experience.  (See how the page-turn works on an iPad here, using their iBooks app.)

Google (and other’s) answer to the iPad are on their way – so as the market for mobile reading expands this may prove interesting for established aggregators in the e-book field such asMyiLibrary, who are already moving away from their existing pdf reader because this form of delivery does not work well with mobile devices.

The race down the rabbit-hole is on ; not to replace the printed book but to make reading/teaching/discovering academic texts more tactile, and more interactive.

As Alice says, ‘what is the use of a book, without pictures or conversations’ ?